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Tom Neill one of the last of Kelvinside West

Tom Neill was one of the last survivors of a long forgetten rugby amalgamation
Following the Second World War and almost forty years before the birth of GHK Kelvinside Accies combined with West to get rugby going again in the early post war period not unique at that time as clubs tried to regroup

This appreciation appeared in the Telegraph
Tom Neill, who has died aged 91, commanded motor torpedo boats (MTBs) during the war; afterwards he joined the family jam-making firm.

On the night of June 6 1942, 22-year old Neill was in a two-boat patrol off the Dutch island of Texel in MTB 70, a 76ft, 30-ton speedboat with two 21in torpedo tubes. Made of plywood, MTBs relied upon high speed and agility to avoid being sunk.

Suddenly, a star-shell burst overhead, and MTB 70 came under heavy gunfire from close quarters. An E-boat, escorting a German convoy, appeared out of the mist. The lead MTB in Neill’s formation took violent evasive action, cutting across Neill’s bows and forcing him to slow sharply to avoid a collision. Finding himself at a speed which allowed him to launch his torpedoes, he fired at one of the enemy ships and raced away. As he did so MTB 70 was hit hard by enemy fire which wrecked the steering gear. Neill kept up his speed, steering by alternately using port and starboard engines; as he did so, he heard an explosion and saw his target blow up.

On the evening of July 17 1944 Neill, in command of MTB 233, and accompanied by other boats of the 21st Flotilla, sailed for the main shipping lane between Ijmuiden and the Hook of Holland, patrolling until a convoy was sighted about four miles away. The MTB’s were sporting a new camouflage designed by Lieutenant Peter Scott (later conservationist Sir Peter Scott) and as the convoy closed, the enemy gunners appeared to lose their targets. As a result the MTBs were able to deliver a volley of torpedoes from close range.

A week later, however, Neill was not so lucky. A shell burst against the wheelhouse of MTB 233, killing his first lieutenant, Richard Jones, and Able Seaman Cyril Paddick. Despite the damage and being unable to remove the two men from their posts, Neill managed to return to base, HMS Beehive at Felixstowe. He was awarded the DSC.

Thomas Neill was born on July 29 1920 in Glasgow, where his father, Robert, was owner of Thomas Neill and Son, manufacturers of preserves. Tom was educated at Kelvinside School, where he excelled at rugby. Post-war he captained Kelvinside West and played fullback for Glasgow in the 1946/47 season; he was fullback for Scottish Services and for Glasgow/Edinburgh against the touring Australians in 1948.

By then he had rejoined the family business, which traded at McClellan Street until 1962 and then in Renton until it was bought by McCormick in 1967. Neill worked for McCormick until his retirement in 1994.

He was an active member of the congregation of Renton Trinity Church for 50 years, and was an elder in the 1970s.

Aged 86 he visited the modern patrol craft Smiter, and was invited by Lieutenant Kate Doran to berth the ship in Faslane. A concerned friend intervened: “Do you think that’s a good idea, Tom?” but Neill brought Smiter alongside perfectly – to the admiration and amusement of her crew and captain.

Tom Neill married, first, in 1943, Daphne Higgins. He married, secondly, in 1952, Cate McLean MacRae; and, thirdly, in 1987, Rosena McMahon Robertson. His wife survives him as do a son and twin daughters from his first marriage, and two sons from his second marriage.

This article was originally posted on 3-Jul-2012, 07:49 by Hugh Barrow.
Last updated by Hugh Barrow on 4-Jul-2012, 20:04.

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